For seven years, Keely Gray has scheduled her workweek around the first Friday of each month from September to May.
"After each performance, I just can't wait for the next month," said Gray, a social worker.
She has loved watching the Toledo School for the Arts evolve over the years as its enrollment has grown, its physical space has improved, and its students have performed with greater skill. And she looks forward to her youngest daughter, who plays violin, sings, and dances, attending in the fall.
First Friday at Toledo School for the Arts is a fun, free hour that begins at 9 a.m. with a light breakfast and browsing in the second-floor gallery followed at 9:30 by performances. Tomorrow's lineup includes two percussion ensembles, the string orchestra, wind instruments, the exuberant In Good Company dance troupe, and Math in Motion, in which students use music, dance, and theater to "solve" math problems.
Last month's show, attended by about 100 people, featured eight groups including a guitar-centric band kicking out "Twist and Shout," actors performing a witty sketch, and a 60-voice chorus singing a classical piece.
"It gives something for the students to work toward," said Natasha Jones, a sophomore who participates in choir, band, and theater. "And it helps potential students see what they want to be involved in."
Clad in a blue vest, she and fellow sophomore Brandi Haverstock are "ambassadors" who volunteer at special events by passing out programs and helping visitors find their way.
Performances are broadcast into classrooms, where teachers can decide whether to let their students watch.
Last month, the Gallery on Third, heralded with a classy neon sign by artist Phil Hazard and full of student art, was dedicated. Tomorrow, faculty members will exhibit their work in the second-floor gallery.
And in January, First Friday's slate comprised Toledo School for the Arts alums who gave 10 performances.
The First Friday audience typically includes families of student performers, donors, artists, retirees, downtown employees, as well as kids thinking about enrolling and accompanied by their parents, said Marty Porter, school director.
"This started because we didn't think any of our studios could do a whole concert," Porter said. "Studio" is the term for a class. "It's a way for us to share works in progress in the school. And it's good for our kids, especially the junior division students, to see what the senior division can do."
He noted that the class schedule, normally seven 50-minute periods, is modified on First Fridays.
First Friday at the Toledo School for the Arts, 333 14th St. on the edge of downtown Toledo, takes place from 9 to 10 a.m. tomorrow. There is no First Friday in April. The final First Friday of the school year will be May 4. It is free and open to the public. Information: 419-246-8732 and www.ts4arts.org
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